Friday, November 09, 2007

Oprah Does It Right

Most love her and some despise her, but no one can question Oprah Winfrey’s crisis management skills.

Faced with an ugly abuse scandal at her school for disadvantaged South African girls, Winfrey stepped up in a major way and apologized to these young women on a world stage.

Only hours after an accused dormitory matron appeared in court near Johannesburg, South Africa, Winfrey spoke openly and from the heart in a video news conference aired by satellite and posted on the Internet.

Sounding more like an embattled chief executive officer than America’s television talk-show sweetheart, Winfrey articulated all the right emotions by coming across as outraged, sensitive, caring and human.

Looking straight into the camera, the diva said, “She wept for half an hour when she heard about the abuse. A horrible situation has been uncovered and rooted out. The buck always stops with me.”

In what can best be described as a “take charge” attitude, Winfrey promised to “clean house,” starting with the headmistress of the school. She also admitted the screening process was inadequate and officials at the school had told students to “put on happy faces” and not complain to her.

Going even further in the court of public opinion, she helped detail the investigation that led to an arrest. “One of the most devastating, if not the most devastating experience of my life,” she said.

Winfrey knows what it’s like to be a victim (she was molested when she was four and raped when she was nine). Now that she has the power to do something about it, she acted swiftly and decisively.

The school mess is a crash landing from all the media fanfare that occurred back in January when celebrities like Nelson Mandela, Mariah Carey, Tina Turner, and Spike Lee helped open the $40 million school.

Textbook Crisis Management

Granted, Winfrey is about as media savvy as they come, but still, she exhibited textbook techniques and expertise in how to handle a modern-day crisis. Consider some of the key elements at work:

• She got her facts straight; she traveled to South Africa and worked with police and a noted child psychiatrist. She then kept silent until officials concluded their investigation.

• Her well-timed press conference controlled the message before it began to control her.

• By using satellite and Internet technology, she ensured timely and accurate dissemination of critical information to her key audiences.

• She used candor to help maintain her stature and credibility.

• By acting quickly, she likely minimized damage to her standing as a television personality, businesswoman, entrepreneur, and courageous pioneer in helping the world’s disadvantaged.

• Designating herself as spokesperson, she spoke for the school with a single, powerful voice.

• She was truthful, didn’t hide from the media, and answered all the difficult questions.

Winfrey’s decisive and swift actions stand in stark contrast to some recent crises, including some I have blogged on.

Mattel, the big toy company, is still digging out from massive recalls of toys made in China. When asked by journalists why it took the company so long to announce the recall, the CEO said, “…the company discloses problems on its own timetable because it believes both the law and the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission’s enforcement practices are unreasonable.”

Hardly reassuring.

TJX Cos., a national retailer, continues to deal with the aftermath of a security breach that exposed millions of customer credit and debit card numbers. The company waited a full month to go public with the information.

When Bank of America had some computer tapes stolen, it waited two months to notify customers. Even the U.S. government waited several weeks before disclosing someone had walked off with a government-owned laptop computer containing Social Security information for 25.6 million U.S. citizens.

To be sure, there are problems that need to be solved at Winfrey’s school. The six victimized girls, aged 13-15 and a 23-year-old, are receiving mental health counseling and have the support and care of their friends.

Scrutiny of the school’s operation will continue for some time, but, in my view, Winfrey has taken command and set the tone for remedial action.

In her own intimate style, Winfrey said, “I am prepared to do whatever is necessary to make sure the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls becomes the safe, nurturing and enriched setting that I had envisioned. It will become a model for the world.”

Once again, she has proven her mettle in a tense, emotionally-charged situation that would test anyone’s communications skills. If she ever gets tired of TV, crisis management counseling might be in the offing.

Joe M. Grillo, senior vice president at Nicolazzo & Associates, contributed to this blog.

4 comments:

oakleyses said...

nike free run, ugg boots, longchamp outlet, ray ban sunglasses, prada handbags, prada outlet, nike air max, polo ralph lauren, christian louboutin outlet, cheap oakley sunglasses, nike free, louis vuitton outlet, oakley sunglasses, louis vuitton outlet, nike air max, polo ralph lauren outlet online, gucci handbags, polo outlet, longchamp outlet, replica watches, ugg boots, louboutin pas cher, uggs on sale, burberry pas cher, louis vuitton, oakley sunglasses wholesale, longchamp outlet, sac longchamp pas cher, replica watches, chanel handbags, christian louboutin uk, nike roshe, air max, kate spade outlet, longchamp pas cher, nike outlet, christian louboutin shoes, oakley sunglasses, jordan shoes, louis vuitton, christian louboutin, tiffany and co, michael kors pas cher, louis vuitton outlet, oakley sunglasses, tiffany jewelry, tory burch outlet, ray ban sunglasses

oakleyses said...

polo lacoste, michael kors outlet online, nike air max uk, replica handbags, nike roshe run uk, uggs outlet, coach outlet, michael kors outlet online, sac vanessa bruno, oakley pas cher, ray ban pas cher, nike air max uk, lululemon canada, new balance, nike free uk, north face, nike air force, hogan outlet, kate spade, burberry outlet, mulberry uk, coach purses, true religion jeans, michael kors outlet online, abercrombie and fitch uk, michael kors outlet, hollister uk, converse pas cher, nike blazer pas cher, timberland pas cher, nike tn, true religion outlet, ralph lauren uk, michael kors, guess pas cher, sac hermes, michael kors outlet, ray ban uk, uggs outlet, michael kors outlet online, true religion outlet, coach outlet store online, michael kors, vans pas cher, true religion outlet, hollister pas cher, nike air max, michael kors outlet, north face uk

oakleyses said...

converse outlet, chi flat iron, ray ban, insanity workout, ferragamo shoes, mac cosmetics, herve leger, soccer jerseys, converse, louboutin, north face outlet, asics running shoes, jimmy choo outlet, gucci, ralph lauren, mont blanc pens, soccer shoes, celine handbags, nike trainers uk, beats by dre, vans, bottega veneta, babyliss, nike roshe run, hollister, ghd hair, wedding dresses, giuseppe zanotti outlet, abercrombie and fitch, hermes belt, nike air max, hollister clothing, iphone cases, north face outlet, vans outlet, nfl jerseys, hollister, mcm handbags, valentino shoes, p90x workout, new balance shoes, nike huaraches, timberland boots, instyler, lululemon, nike air max, longchamp uk, baseball bats, reebok outlet, oakley

oakleyses said...

canada goose outlet, canada goose jackets, pandora charms, moncler uk, moncler, barbour uk, moncler outlet, pandora uk, moncler, louis vuitton, juicy couture outlet, canada goose, canada goose, juicy couture outlet, pandora jewelry, canada goose outlet, louis vuitton, links of london, supra shoes, canada goose uk, moncler, ugg, toms shoes, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, canada goose, canada goose outlet, coach outlet, swarovski crystal, wedding dresses, pandora jewelry, barbour, louis vuitton, moncler, lancel, doudoune moncler, ugg pas cher, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, karen millen uk, marc jacobs, louis vuitton, ugg uk, louis vuitton, moncler outlet, replica watches, swarovski, hollister, thomas sabo, montre pas cher